It’s that time of year again, where large fancy hats, sun-dresses, and three piece suits in 90 degree weather become the norm in the capital region. This is, of course, thanks to the opening of Saratoga’s historical horse racing track on July 22, 2016. The Saratoga Race Course, which began in 1863, has begun its 40-day season and will continue to have races every day except Tuesdays. People from all over New York come together at this track to enjoy the beautiful summer weather, the food, the gambling, and of course the horses. Although the race course has a venue of over 50,000, this year, like many years in the past, there will be days where the track is completely sold out.
But with so many track lovers gathering in one place, it’s natural that some are concerned for the safety of pedestrians walking to or leaving the events. The Track’s main parking area is across Union Ave, a four lane street separated in the middle by a grassy median. These particular areas tend to fill up quickly. With limited parking around the track, many nearby homeowners have offered to rent parking spaces on their lawns for a fee typically between $3 – $10 per vehicle. Neighborhoods between Nelson Avenue and Jefferson Street, to the west of the track, tend to be the most used secondary parking areas. This activity not only increases vehicle traffic in nearby neighborhoods, but also pedestrian traffic. Additionally, pedestrians visiting the track are often attracted to the restaurants and bars found close by. Establishments such as Siro’s, the Kings Tavern and The Brook Tavern, are just a block or two away from the track, but involve crossing busy intersections. This combination increases the risk of pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents.
Popular strips of bars and restaurants on downtown streets, such as Broadway or Caroline Street, are flooded with pedestrians into the late hours of the night. Every weekend, hundreds of people drink, dance, or listen to live music at bars such as the Saratoga City Tavern, the Reserve, or Gaffney’s. This energetic and fun environment when combined with alcohol also increases the risk of pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents.
If you are a pedestrian, avoid crossing the street in undesignated areas.
In fact, it is illegal for a pedestrian to “suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle, which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.” Whether you’re near the track or enjoying yourself in downtown Saratoga, make sure to use crosswalks when traveling over busy streets. According to New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, “a vehicle [must] yield the right of way . . . to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk[.]” Using the crosswalk will not only keep your safe, but also others around you. Drivers are typically more alert and aware of pedestrians when approaching a crosswalk. Using these designated areas could help prevent pedestrian accidents in the future.
Although the Saratoga Police Department and the City have done a wonderful job directing busy traffic near the track and patrolling the streets at night, accidents still occur. During last year’s track season, the former head of New York Racing Association was hospitalized after he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle at an intersection near the track. In another example, a pedestrian was struck at night by an automobile when he tried to cross Broadway, a street that intersects with Caroline Street. The pedestrian suffered several fractures and was eventually transported via helicopter to Albany Med.
This summer, take advantage of the track with your friends and family for the short period of time that it’s open. But meanwhile, be aware of the risks, whether you’re a pedestrian or driver, when going to and from the track and also when going out afterward.
At LaMarche Safranko Law, we have dedicated our efforts, through the Road Sharing Alliance, to preventing pedestrian, bicycle, and motor vehicle accidents by bringing our community together. If you or someone close to you has suffered personal injury because of a pedestrian or motor vehicle accident, please contact us today for a free consultation.
 N.Y. VTL § 1151(b).
 New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1151(a)(2016).
 Andrew Murphy, Former head of NY racing hurt by vehicle while riding bike, ABC News 10 (July 29, 2016).
 Dennis Yusko, Driver arrested in alleged Saratoga Springs hit-and-run, Times Union (Aug. 31, 2015).